Travel deep inside yourself without the baggage of conditioning. Be an explorer, have patience and eventually your true nature will surface. You will return from your journey with fresh skin and you will approach each day with a wonderful sense of wonder and bliss. – Marco Capristo

Who Am I? is a meditation based on self-enquiry for attaining enlightenment which is closely associated with the Indian Sage Sri Ramana Maharishi.

I have been meditating on the question of “Who Am I?” And from my personal experience I have come to realize that “The Self” is source or God.

In the past when I was meditating on the question of “Who Am I?” I always found it difficult to perceive an answer to the question as I did find it impossible to answer. I would begin by asking myself Who Am I? and then this would be followed by more questions: Am I The Body And Mind? Am I My Thoughts? Am I My Emotions? Am I My Feelings? And there would come a point where I could no longer go any further with the questions as I felt like I had hit a brick wall,

Usually meditation teachers will tell you that obstacles are not distractions to the meditation; they are the meditation. And so blocks aren’t blocks to creativity. They are the creativity. The blocks arise for a reason but nevertheless you still need to persevere on your spiritual journey.

By continually asking yourself Who Am I? I have feelings, but I am not those feelings. I have thoughts, but I am not these thoughts. Who Am I? I have desires, but I am not those desires. By paying attention to the technique, you will realize that thoughts appear out of nowhere – out of an empty space. But there is a further line of enquiry which I must ask myself: Where did that thought come from? Who is thinking those thoughts? Notice how thoughts appear, they seem to be transitory and are always fleeting. And as soon as one thought arises and disappears, another one arises.

With the “Who Am I?” meditation you push back into the source of your true nature.

Now as you rest in your true nature – realizing, I am not feelings, I am not thoughts, I am not desires. You will notice a sense of freedom, a sense of liberation, a sense of release – release from identifying with the body, mind and ego. All of which are objects that can be seen, and thus are not the true seer, the real self, your true nature which is what you really are.

So you won’t see anything in particular. Whatever arises is perfectly fine. Clouds float by the sky, feelings float by in the body, thoughts float by in the mind – you can effortlessly witness all of these things. The true seer is not seen. It is just a vast background sense of emptiness, openness and freedom.

Through this method of self-enquiry and attentiveness it may begin to dawn on you that there is a source within you that is far deeper and more mysterious that you thought.

Not to be able to stop thinking  is a dreadful affliction, but  we don’t realise this because almost everybody else is suffering from it, so it is considered normal. This incessant mental noise prevents you from that realm of inner stillness that is inseparable from being – Eckhart Tolle

Mental chatter is the constant noise of the mind that never seems to stop. My head is full of mental chatter – ideas, thoughts, feelings and emotions floating around in a deafening cacophony of mental noise. Trying to clear your mind of mental chatter can be difficult. You try, your mind calm downs…and then suddenly another thought appears out of the blue.

The Buddhists call this monkey mind as thoughts swing from branch to branch and refuse to give us a minute of peace. Thoughts appear for a split second, then they’re gone, only to be replaced by another thought which distracts us for a second or two, before it disappears only to be replaced by another thought.

Have you noticed how our thoughts are unruly, unpleasant and chaotic, but how can we control our thoughts? How can we gain a bit of peace and quiet from the respite of endless mental chatter, if only for a few seconds of peace?  

What is mental chatter?

Your may be thinking to yourself what is mental chatter? Well, it is the background noise of the mind. It’s the inner monologue (running commentary) that occurs within our minds. Many people are unaware of this mental noise, because  it has become a deeply embedded habit and it’s considered a natural and inseparable part of our daily life.

Mental noise or chatter is similar to an inner voice that often scrutinizes and analyses everything in our lives. The inner voice is negative and at times we may feel as though we can’t accomplish anything due to the incessant mental chatter. It’s a voice that just keeps talking and talking and talking!

The mind tends to repeat the same thoughts over and over again, like a scratched cd – stuck in an infinite loop. Thinking is a very useful activity and it is essential for solving problems in daily life but too often the mind has a will of it’s own. It occupies our attention with trivial matters and useless things that wastes our time and energy.

Mental noise or chatter prevents us from living the now – the present moment. It distracts us as we seem to either live in the past or the future.

How do I identify mental noise?

  1. Mental noise are thoughts that repeat themselves over and over gain like a scratched cd – stuck in a loop.
  2. You relive negative past situations often hoping that the situation could have turned out better.
  3. You begin to dwell on the past and fear the future. This prevents us from enjoying the now – the present moment. The past has gone and the future is a just an idea. The only time we have is the present. 
  4. Inner monologue (running commentary) that disturbs our peace of mind.
  5. Never being totally present. We are always thinking about something even if we don’t realize it.

How to stop mental chatter

Do you suffer from mental chatter? Do you want to stop this so that you can enjoy a few moments of peace and happiness?

So, how do we stop mental chatter? To stop and gain some control over your thoughts, you will need to find the gap between your thoughts. The space between thoughts is where you will find freedom and peace from the mind.

Try it now: Close your eyes. Breathe in, follow your breath in through your nostrils, then into your throat, then into your lungs and belly. As you breathe out, follow your breath out back into the world. If you do lose track, start over. If you do find you mind is wandering (and you will), just observe your mind wandering, then gently bring it back to your breath.

Did you find it difficult? You may get a few minutes of peace and respite then your mind will continue with it’s endless mental chatter. The mind has a will of it’s own. It shows you how undisciplined and restless the mind is.

In addition, you can also practise detachment. Do no let any external situations affect your inner peace and state of mind. In essence, it means to not let what people say or do install negativity within your mind. It does not mean becoming uncaring or indifferent – it means choosing your response to the external events outside your control.

Anyone who has lost something they thought was theirs forever finally comes to realise that nothing really belongs to them – Paulo Coelho

This Too Shall Pass

Every thought, feeling, emotion and situation in life is temporary. Life’s ebbs and flows can impact us greatly,causing discomfort, pain and grief.

When change in life hits you? It can often feel very sad, disappointing and even terrifying. The end of a core relationship, losing your job, the death of a loved one. It can strike unexpectedly and out of the blue, fearing that you will never be able to get “back on track”.

We strive to meet our journey in life wisely – only when we keep in mind life’s ebbs and flows. Whether it is disappointing, frustrating or a pleasant experience it will soon come and pass away.

By learning to embrace impermanence you can become more resilient and embrace the flow and flux of life’s impermanence. In eastern traditions, it is described as the underlying reality of life is in constant flux, turmoil, evolution and change. Take for example, a table it is made up of many atoms and particles which are in a constant state of turmoil, flux and decay. 

Consider this: The most unpleasant experiences are only brief and temporary. Today they will trouble us and make us worry unnecessarily but when we awake tomorrow, it will be a distant memory and we will have almost forgotten them.

It was president Lincoln who made famous the saying – this too shall pass. He used the expression as a mantra to help him through the stress of troubled times with his family and during his administration.

So, you may be wondering what does “This Too Shall Pass” really mean? In essence, it means not to judge the situations that you may find yourself in, whether it is pleasant, unpleasant, sad or disappointing. By uttering these words to yourself, you will realize for yourself that every feeling, emotion, thought or situation  in life is temporary.

It also teaches us about acceptance, to not resist and to accept whatever we may be facing in our life. 

At a deeper level, if we can come to realization that life is impermanent, the better off we will be. We have to flow with life, adjust to change or circumstances, and realize that, nothing that I have in this world is a guarantee.

I always expected that life would go a certain way for me and when it didn’t  I would get disheartened. I can remember when I worked hard to get to university, and then I failed to get a degree. Then I think to myself, I wouldn’t be working in this dead-end job if I’d passed. Wallowing in self-blame won’t help. By learning to let go of the belief that life has to go a certain way you’ll suffer less as a result and get less disheartened less often.

I often use “This To Shall Pass” and reflect upon it  when I am going through a difficult period in my life. 

So next time you feel upset, disappointed, disheartened, stressed or worried about something. Remind yourself “This Too Shall Pass”. Use it as mantra.The circumstances of your situation will change – maybe not all of them, but some parts of it will change fairly quickly.

Not all spiritual paths lead to the harmonious oneness. Indeed, most are detours and distractions, nothing more. – Lao Tzu

The Silent Witness Within
Who Am I? I would ask myself as I stood in front of a mirror gazing upon my own reflection, hoping that an answer would appear from the depths of my being but nothing would happen and I would just stand there gazing back at my own reflection. I felt like a ship’s captain lost at sea desperately trying to understand myself but I was no closer to the answers that I was seeking.

I have always felt that there was something far greater to us than just our physical appearance and that I was not just a mind, body, thoughts or feelings. Unknowingly, this method of enquiry led me to the spiritual search but I was unaware of it at the time.

Beyond the mind, there is a background of awareness that does not change. You may be thinking, what is this awareness? Well, it is the silent witness within – the true observer.

Who is the silent witness within?

You may be thinking to yourself, how can I discover the silent witness within – the true observer? Start by closing your eyes, breathe in through your nostrils, then into your throat and belly. As you breathe out, follow your breath. If it helps, you can count one breathe in, two breathe out, three breathe in, four breathe out. If you lose track, gently bring your attention back to your breath. Repeat this for a few minutes until you are relaxed.

Now pay attention to your body, emotions, thoughts , all the different things that come and go. Just observe and don’t try to struggle with it. You are exploring and taking an interest in the arising and passing away of this phenomenon you call “my body” and the tremendous changing flow of sensations that it actually is.

Can you observe your thoughts and your emotions in a third person perspective?  As you observe your thoughts, you will realize that thoughts are a series of fleeting images and impressions that appear one after another. You may begin to wonder who is observing these thoughts? Where do thoughts come from? Who is the observer watching these thoughts? If you carry on observing yourself, you will in time discover yourself as the silent witness – the true observer. The light that you really are.

The silent witness – the true observer is eternal and timeless. Unlike us, it is not subject to birth or death. It doesn’t age or grow, doesn’t learn or unlearn. God is not in the sky nor in the all pervading ether, you have to look within yourself to discover it.

I remember a memory from an earlier part of my life which reminds of this essential truth. My parents would always tell me, behave yourself God is always watching. I always thought, how can God be watching me? How is this even possible? 

When I look back and relive those earlier years of my childhood. I now realize that they were imparting deep lessons and wisdom but I didn’t understand at the time. The observer within is non-judgmental. It is a witness to everything in your life. Nothing is right or wrong, good or bad – everything is as it is.

If you persevere on your spiritual search. It can give you a taste of a deeper watcher, a seer which lies beyond the ego, on the doorstep of eternity.

desire neither victory nor pleasure nor kingdom, O Krishna. What is the use of the kingdom, or enjoyment, or even life? – Arjuna

In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna tells Arjuna, “Give up everything and come to my feet.” And from our point it seems like an egoistic statement.

Well what does Krishna really tell Arjuna? When he says, “Leave everything and come to my feet,” he means that you should set aside everything and go to the feet of life itself. Krishna tells Arjuna to fight and yet if we look at the dialogue between the two, Arjuna appears to be more religious and what Krishna says is not religious at all, Krishna provokes him to fight, and Arjuna refuses to do so. He says, “It is painful to kill my own people. I won’t kill them even for the sake of a kingdom and a king’s throne. I would rather go begging in the  street,  and commit suicide than kill my relatives, friends and teachers who are fighting on the other side.

Is Arjuna wrong? He is filled with a sense of righteousness, that he is on the path of religion. Some may argue that he is a sage, a man of wisdom. But Krishna says to him, “You have gone mad and are deluded. Your sense of religion has left you.”

He tells Arjuna, “You are mad if you think you can kill someone as no-one ever dies. It is an illusion and you are mistaken to think you can save those standing before you. Whoever has saved anyone? And you can’t escape war, nor can you be non-violent because as long as the I exists – and it is this I that is anxious to save itself and it’s family relatives – non violence is next to impossible. Now, be rid of this nonsense and  face your reality. Accept what is facing you, it is not a temple where prayers are made, it is war, it is war you are facing and you have your part to play. So drop your I and fight.”

With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future, I live now – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Living In The Now

Life unfolds in the present moment, but so often we let the present  slip away, allowing time to rush past us as we squander every precious moment of our lives as we worry about the past or the future. When we’re at work, we fantasize about being on holiday; on holiday we worry about the work pilling up on our desks. We don’t appreciate living in the present because our “monkey minds” as Buddhists call them, jump from thought to thought like monkeys swinging from tree to tree.

We need to learn to live in the moment. Living in the now – also known as mindfulness – is a state of bare attention on the present moment. When you become mindful, you realize you are not your thoughts; you observe your thoughts passing but you do not judge them. Neither do you grasp them or push them away.

Most of the time, our minds are caught up in thoughts of the past or the future. We weave fantastic stories about things we remember or events that we hope will soon come to pass in the near future. We soon realize, that the only experience of the past is a thought passing through this very moment.

A memory from an earlier part of my life, reminds me of this essential truth. My parents would always tell me, tomorrow never comes, when I would not listen. I always thought to myself, tomorrow will come, what do they know?  When I look back and reflect on my own experiences, I think they were imparting deep lessons which I didn’t understand at the time.

Tomorrow is an illusion, and we can only live in the present moment. Even if you live until tomorrow with the mindset of “Tomorrow”, I’ll do x, y and z. Those goals will always seem to be out of our reach, as something else always grabs our attention. Start by acting now, there is no tomorrow, what are you waiting for? 

So forget about the past and don’t worry about the future. Take a deep breath and ground yourself in the present moment – the now.

Try it now: close your eyes, and concentrate on your breathing – the sensation of air as it enters your nose  and fills your lungs, and as it goes out again. If thoughts come up, simply observe, acknowledge them and let them go and return your attention to your breath.

So do thoughts exist outside of the physical organism? The obvious answer is: No. The past and the future is an illusion, as they are simply thoughts. The present moment – Living in the now – is the only moment we truly have. Only in the present moment will you find freedom – the source and ground of our very being.

God will never give you anything you can’t handle, so don’t stress – Kelly Clarkson

Stress is a part of everyday life, but being stressed out is not. Your body is designed to handle, even  thrive on, brief periods of stress. However too much isn’t good for mind and soul. So, even when you can’t change a stressful outcome, you can have some control over the way you deal with it.

1. Breathe Easily
Breathing from your diaphragm oxygenates your blood, which helps you to relax instantly. To breathe deeply, begin by putting your hands on the abdomen just below your navel. Now, inhale slowly through your nose and watch your hand move out as your belly expands. Hold your breath from a few seconds, then exhale slowly. Repeat several times.

2. Visualise Calm
This is a highly effective technique in reducing and managing stress. Close your eyes, take three long, breaths, and spend a few minutes picturing a relaxing scene, such as walking on the beach, sitting by a brook. Focus on the details – the sights, sounds and smells.

3. Mantra
Everything is impermanent, as all things are subject to change. Remember this and you’ll get disheartened less often. Devise a simple affirmation – a short clear, positive statement about your ability to handle stress. So, the next time you feel as if life has thrown you overboard, repeat 2 to 3 times, “This too shall pass.”

4. Self Reflection
Writing provides perspective, you can start by reflecting on your day, your emotions, your thoughts and feelings. Ask yourself questions: What happened? What did you learn? Reflect on the questions you ask yourself and write them down.

5. Practise  Mindfulness
Mindfulness is an approach to life. The present is the only time we have. The past has gone and the future has yet to come. Start by focusing intently on a single object. Notice a pen’s shape. color, weight and feel. For a minute forget about your worries, deadlines and just focus intently on the object. Practicing mindfulness leads to relaxation.

6. Walk Away
Any time you feel your heart rate rising due to stress or anger, simply excuse yourself from the situation and do everything you can to recover. Take a few deep breaths, think positive thoughts and remind yourself that you are in control.

Happiness resides not in possessions, and not in gold, happiness dwells in the soul. – Democritus

The Search For Happiness

In our search for happiness – unfailing happiness –  we realize that it can only be found by looking within. Buddhists have recognized that we have to stop trying to change the world around us to bring happiness, but instead change our minds.

We may think that objects and material possessions will bring us more happiness – a better job, a new car, a new house or more money. But rarely does this work, as we soon discover that it does not make us any happier and we keep buying things in order to feel better about ourselves. 

Happiness from acquiring material objects, possessions, situations or persons is only there for a limited time. You may have some inner peace initially but it doesn’t last and then we want something else, and then something else. 

Anything outside of us, cannot bring us true happiness and peace; it’s only temporary and fleeting and at some point it will inevitably let us down. A true source of happiness would not cause us any suffering, pain or disappointment.

When one has received a terrible blow – such  as losing someone very close to you, we begin to understand better why the Buddha taught that living is suffering. In pleasant times, this truth goes unnoticed.  Only through heart-felt sorrow, disappointment and suffering will a person come to the spiritual path. If there was no suffering would you even bother?

Buddha wasn’t miserable when he said that life was suffering people suffer pain, loss, disappointment and there are many things I want but I cannot get. This is what he meant by it.

The wisdom of experience teaches us that all things change. A happiness that is based on outward things, materials and possessions is sought by many but none have found it.

The happiness from any situation, or a person may initially give you some inner peace and fulfillment but it is only there for a limited time. Eventually it leads to some kind of disappointment. This was Buddha’s discovery almost 2500 years ago and it is the same today. 

How do we start the search for happiness? Rather than look outside, we should start by directing our attention inwards – the kingdom of God is within you. You are the source of supreme bliss and happiness that you seek. Hidden within you is a treasure waiting to be discovered. This is your true nature.   

The search for happiness is ultimately the search for enlightenment. An end to suffering, depression, pain and loss we inevitably encounter simply as a result of being human.

Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the  pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t) – James Baraz

"A Guide To Mindfulness Meditation"  

In the Buddhist tradition cultivating mindfulness is the key to overcoming our suffering and discovering our inherent wisdom. So how do we go about it?

You can nurture mindfulness through the practice of sitting meditation. There are many types of meditations. For instance, some are designed to help us to relax; others are meant to produce altered states of consciousness.

Mindfulness meditation is unique, as it helps us to become aware of the present – moment by moment. It teaches you how to be unconditionally present; that is it helps us to be present what whatever may be happening in our  life, no matter what it is.

You may be thinking, what good does that do? After all, don’t we want to suffer less and enjoy life more.

The sitting practice of mindfulness meditation gives us the opportunity to be more present with ourselves. This, in turn shows us glimpses of our inherent wisdom and it teaches us how to stop the unnecessary suffering that results from trying to escape discomfort, and even pain we experience as a consequence of simple being alive.

So, how do we start mindfulness meditation?  Well, you can start  by paying attention to your feelings, thoughts, emotions and sensations as they arise and subside, don’t reject anything.  Instead of struggling to get away from experiences we find difficult, we accept and try being with them in the present.

1. Creating a Favorable Environment
A pleasant environment free from noise and distractions can help with the practice of mindfulness sitting meditation. As this helps to make it easier for us to practice. 

2. Beginning the Practice
In the beginning I would suggest that you should meditate for short periods of time – five, ten, fifteen or twenty minutes is enough.

3. Posture
The basic principle is to keep an upright, erect posture. Imagine this: your shoulders are level, your hips are level and your spine is stacked up. We sit, and at the same time we remain relaxed, alert and awake. If you do find yourself getting dull, hazy or falling asleep, you  may have to check your posture.

4. Breath
When you start the practice, just pay attention to your breath. You pay attention to the breath going in and going out, as soon you start watching your breath you may find that you start thinking about something else. Simply bring back your awareness to your breath. The breath should not be forced; you are just breathing naturally. We use the breath to focus our mind and at the same time it helps us to relax and let go of our daily worries and concerns.

5. Thoughts
During your sitting meditation practice many thoughts will appear. You simply observe your thoughts, feelings and desires. However if distracting thoughts and feelings arise and you find yourself getting carried away with them, just be aware of them. There is no need to ‘battle’ with them or ‘get rid’ of them as this will make it much more difficult to let go. It doesn’t matter how many times your attention drifts, simply return your attention to your breath going in and going out.

Are you trying to make sense out of life’s transitions? I’m currently in the middle of a transition and yet the destination is still unknown. Like myself, you’re probably been at the in-between stage more than a few times in your life – but you’re not seeing any results.

You keep asking yourself, “What should I do and how did I end up here?” Maybe your waiting for the next step in your life to appear and you’re feeling frustrated and stuck, like you’re not making any progress fast enough.

What else can you do apart from a.) worrying b.) going over things in your head over and over, and c.) feeling like a hamster on a wheel?

It’s no surprise that my copy of Transitions by William Bridges is well thumbed and richly annotated for my own use.

Being in-between marriages or careers can take on a particularly painful and confusing when things are changing so profoundly. It as if we launched from a riverside dock to cross a landing  on the opposite side – only to discover midstream that the landing was no longer there. (And then we looked back to the other shore, we saw that the dock we had left from had broken loose and was heading downstream.)

Life is a series of transitions whether it is personal, a job, marriage, dreams or physical challenges. It is a set of steps that take us from an ending, through a neutral period, then a new beginning.

One day everything seems to be coming apart; the next day, life goes on as usual, and we wonder whether we have been imagining it all.

Previously, I worked in customer services for a large telecommunications company. I thought my job was safe, secure and permanent. But, before I knew it the company announced a large round of redundancies.

Initially, I felt optimistic and hopeful about my future. As  I had just started a new job, was only there for a few months and before I know it, I’m out of a job. But the job search has not been easy as I though it would be.

But recently, I felt as though I was just spinning my wheels. I thought I was doing all I could do, but nothing seemed to be working out, and that was frustrating. Now I was ready, I wanted something to happen immediately as I had took the time and put in effort! Something should have happened by now.

Not knowing what the future holds can make you feel like a hamster on a wheel. You find yourself constantly asking, What do I do now?"

Even though I’m unemployed, I’m trying to enjoy it – the uncertainty of it all. In one word, it’s about acceptance. Surrendering to the uncertainty – you’ve done your best and hopefully things will come together somehow.

The beauty of the book is that it is not just a manual on ‘how to cope’, but gets us to see that the process on disorganization, death and renewal is a fundamental nature and theme of mythology. The cycle is natural and admitting it makes it much easier to deal with it. Whenever a significant change hits me, I always turn to this book. 

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is in the midst of a transition.